Bread of Life, Broken and Shared

Matthew 15: 29-37
Is 25: 6-10a / Ps 23: 1-6

I am unwilling to send them away hungry, lest they faint on the way.
(Matthew 15:32)

Lord, You provide for all peoples
A feast of rich food and choice wine;
You multiply Your disciples
As we partake Your Bread divine.

And Jesus went on from there and passed along the Sea of Galilee. And He went up on the mountain, and sat down there. And great crowds came to Him, bringing with them the lame, the maimed, the blind, the dumb, and many others, and they put them at His feet, and He healed them, so that the throng wondered, when they saw the dumb speaking, the maimed whole, the lame walking, and the blind seeing; and they glorified the God of Israel. Then Jesus called His disciples to Him and said, “I have compassion on the crowd, because they have been with me now three days, and have nothing to eat; and I am unwilling to send them away hungry, lest they faint on the way.” And the disciples said to Him, “Where are we to get bread enough in the desert to feed so great a crowd?” And Jesus said to them, “How many loaves have you?” They said, “Seven, and a few small fish.” And commanding the crowd to sit down on the ground, He took the seven loaves and the fish, and having given thanks He broke them and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And they all ate and were satisfied; and they took up seven baskets full of the broken pieces left over. (Matthew 15: 29-37)

Reflection

In one of our community’s teaching nights, a member suggested that the real miracle in this Gospel account of Matthew was the spontaneous sharing of provisions among the crowd with those who had none. Aside from discrediting the miracle that our Lord performed, this observation is flawed for the following reasons: 1) Jesus Himself said the crowd had been with Him for 3 days and had run out of food. 2) When Jesus asked how much bread they had, the disciples answered, “Seven loaves and a few fish.” Surely the sick people who had been cured would have volunteered whatever food they had (if they had any) out of gratitude. 3) After the multitude had eaten, the leftovers gathered filled seven baskets. Such an abundant supply would have been apparent to the disciples, instead of just 7 loaves and a few fish. The fact that these were collected after everyone had eaten was a clear sign of God’s generosity and compassion. Jesus made sure that the crowds had extra provisions on their way back to their homes and villages.

God has always provided generously to all His children in need. The number ‘7’ in this Gospel account brings to mind the 7 years of plenty during the time of Joseph when he was made head minister by Pharaoh in Egypt (Gen.41:47-49). It also recalls the daily provisions of manna from heaven (7 days a week) that sustained the Israelites for 40 years in their exodus to the Promised land (Ex.16:4-5, 35). Jesus referred to Himself as the Bread of Life Who came down from heaven (Jn.6:35). In this miracle of the multiplication of bread, He wanted to emphasize to all who would listen that He is the vital link between the Old Testament, when manna from heaven saved the Israelites in the desert, and the Church today, where millions of Christians receive Him daily and are saved by His Holy Eucharist.

In the first reading, Isaiah’s prophecy of “this mountain” is our Church, where “the LORD Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples,” (the Holy Eucharist). “In that day they will say, “This is the LORD, we trusted in him; let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation. The hand of the LORD will rest on this mountain” (Isa.25:9-10)

Lead us always to Your holy mountain, that we may be far from the valleys of sin; there to partake of the Bread of Life, Your Beloved Son, Who will bring us to Your kingdom. Amen.

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